I was asked some months ago by the Science Gallery in Dublin to join the curation team to help choose pieces for the HOME/SICK exhibition which is opening to the public tomorrow. We were presented with a number of artworks which would fit within traditional boundaries such as sculpture, architecture, video work, paintings but the team had a desire to introduce more smart objects in the mix. But how do you show connected objects which say something without only selling something? As the industry of connected products (or #iot if you’re on Twitter) progresses, so do commercial success stories. But you can’t just put a Nest thermostat on display. It wouldn’t add to the discourse, it just is. Neither can you show work that would suffer from Julian’s 15 criteria for interactive art (which, even if written in 2008, still rings true). Tricky business.
And there’s the theme of the exhibition of course. HOME/SICK reminds us of the growing pains that consumers are experiencing buying into the idea of a smart home and smart every day objects (I’m obviously guilty of this myself with the Good Night Lamp). It also points to the diminishing space within our homes where advertising and constant engagement is impossible. The bedroom? Ha! Laptops, mobile phones, smart beds, smart bracelets, heart monitors, it’s all there. Living alongside people and their night life, or lack thereof.
We’re also moving away from home constantly. This could be benign like going off to university or moving to London for work. But it could also be that you are displaced because your country is at war or a natural distaster has struck. It could be you move for a new job opportunity or the love of our life. We are being encouraged to think of the world as global. This is of course bullshit. There is always a place to call home.
Talk to any immigrant and they’ll have a place they call home even if they take a flight a month for work. When we’re not at home, we’re in limbo. We adapt to our condition and we try to pretend we’re at home with this state. We make Aeropress coffee on airplanes, we bring our tea and cushion with us, we have favorite hotels, favorite coffee places, friends everywhere. We order english breakfast tea in Spain. We ship pies-in-a-tin to California. We bring back St-Viateur bagels in our suitcase. But it’s not home and no amount of technology can help us overcome that saudade.
The reality is also that sadly everything changes all the time. It’s one of life’s certainties. The home we lived in won’t stay that way forever (even Elvis’s birthplace was furnished with what his father remembered of the place some 30 years later). We hold on to home when it doesn’t hold on to us. Clubs close down. Cities experience gentrification. Buildings are demolished. Should technology help us bask in the past or should we grow up and realise that we have little to hold on to and that’s that?
Examining this would make for a fantastic GDS project but in the meantime, go see the work of my colleagues and myself in Dublin, you won’t regret it. It’s all there, for you to think about what you are holding on to.